Loss of a Phalloid Legend

We are saddened to announce the passing (May 12) of one of our closest friends, plantsman Alan Galloway, age 60. In addition to serving as an adjunct researcher for Juniper Level Botanic Garden, Alan was a close friend and neighbor, living less than two minutes from the garden/nursery.

Alan was a native North Carolinian, who grew up on a farm in Brunswick County, NC, where he developed his love for plants and the natural world. After graduating from UNC-Wilmington with a Computer Science degree, and working for his alma mater for two years, he made the move two hours west to Raleigh. There, Alan worked at NC State University in IT administration and management for 30 years, until retiring in Fall 2018 as Director of IT Services.

Starting in 1999, Alan would save up his vacation time from his day job at NC State, and spend 3-4 weeks each fall, trekking through remote regions of the world where he felt there were still undiscovered aroid species to find, document, and get into cultivation. From 1999 to 2018, he managed 21 botanical expeditions around the world, that included the countries/regions of Cambodia, Crete, Hong Kong, Laos, Mallorca, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Alan routinely risked life and limb on his travels, whether it was getting attacked by a pit viper in Thailand, barely missing a land mine in Cambodia, or tumbling down a mountain and almost losing a leg in Laos.

I had the pleasure of botanizing in Crete, Thailand and Vietnam with Alan, which was an amazing experience, although not for the faint of heart. Alan was a tireless force of nature, but was not one to suffer what he viewed as stupidity or laziness. Although he was very respectful of people from all walks of life, he also regularly burned bridges to those whom he found incapable of meeting his meticulously high standards.

Alan was botanically self-taught, but his obsessive compulsion led him to become one of the worlds’ leading experts on tuberous aroids, specializing in the genera Amorphophallus and Typhonium. To date Alan is credited with the discovery of 30 new plant species (see list below). He was working on describing several more plants from his travels at the time of his death.

Not only did Alan’s botanical expeditions result in new species, but also new horticultural cultivars of known species. Two of the most popular of these were Leucocasia (Colocasia) ‘Thailand Giant’ (with Petra Schmidt), and L. ‘Laosy Giant’.

As a scientist, Alan was both meticulous and obsessive. It wasn’t enough for him to observe a new plant in the field, but he felt he could learn far more growing it in cultivation. He would often work through the night in his home research greenhouse studying plants and making crosses, so he could observe seed set and determine other close relatives.

Alan was overly generous with his knowledge, believing that sharing was necessary for the benefit of both current and future generations of plant scientists. Without his expert understanding of crossbreeding tuberous aroids, we would never have been able to have such incredible success in our own aroid breeding program. Seedlings from his crosses were then grown out and observed, often resulting in a number of special clonal selections.

After his tuberous aroids went dormant each year, all tubers were lifted from their containers, inventoried, and carefully cleaned for photography and further study. Visiting his greenhouse during tuber season was quite extraordinary.

In his amazing Raleigh home garden and greenhouse, Alan maintained the world’s largest species collection of Amorphophallus and Typhonium, including 2 plants named in his honor; Amorphophallus gallowayi and Typhonium gallowayi. Alan’s discoveries are now grown in the finest botanical gardens and aroid research collections around the world.

After returning from what proved to be his last expedition in Fall 2018, he suffered from a loss of energy, which he attributed to picking up a parasite on the trip. It took almost eight months for area doctors to finally diagnose his malaise as terminal late stage bone cancer, during which time Alan had already made plans and purchased tickets for his next expedition. I should add that he made his travel plans after being run over by a texting pickup truck driver, and drug under the truck for 100 feet through the parking lot of the nearby Lowes Home Improvement, which ruined his kidney function.

Alan was certain, albeit too late, that his cancer came from a lifetime addiction to cigarettes, which he was never able to overcome. Over the last 18 months, it’s been difficult for those of us who knew Alan to watch him lose the vitality and unparalleled work ethic that had been his trademark. Despite his loss of physical ability, his trademark independent/stubborn nature would still not allow him to even accept help driving himself to chemo infusions and blood transfusions, which he did until he passed away. Alan was also never one to complain or bemoan his circumstances, only continuing to accomplish as much as possible in the time he had remaining.

After the initial shock of his diagnosis, Alan systematically began distributing massive amounts of his ex-situ conservation aroid collection to gardens and gardeners around the world, since he also believed that sharing is the most effective means of plant conservation.

One of his hybrids that Alan had shared and asked us to keep a special eye on was his cross of Amorphophallus kachinensis x konjac. We talked with him last week and shared that the first flower was almost open, and he was so excited to see his baby for the first time, but by the time it opened early this week, it was too late. So, here is the photo of his new cross, seen for the first time that would have made him so proud.

Alan Galloway new plant species discoveries:

Amorphophallus allenii (2019 – Thailand)

Amorphophallus acruspadix (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus barbatus (2015 – Laos)

Amorphophallus bolikhamxayensis (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus brevipetiolatus (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus claudelii (2016 – Laos)

Amorphophallus crinitus (2019 – Vietnam)

Amorphophallus crispifolius (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus croatii (2011 – Laos)

Amorphophallus ferruginosus (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus gallowayi (2006 – Laos)

Amorphophallus khammouanensis (2015 – Laos)

Amorphophallus malkmus-husseinii (2019 – Laos)

Amorphophallus myosuroides (2007 – Laos)

Amorphophallus ongsakulii (2006 – Laos)

Amorphophallus prolificus (2006 – Thailand)

Amorphophallus reflexus (2006 – Thailand)

Amorphophallus schmidtiae (2006 – Laos)

Amorphophallus serrulatus (2006 – Thailand)

Amorphophallus umbrinus (2019 – Vietnam)

Amorphophallus villosus (2019 – Vietnam)

Typhonium attapeuensis

Typhonium conchiforme (2005 – Thailand)

Typhonium gallowayi (2001 – Thailand)

Typhonium khonkaenensis (2015 – Thailand)

Typhonium rhizomatosum (2012 – Thailand)

Typhonium sinhabaedyai (2005 – Thailand)

Typhonium supraneeae (2012 – Thailand)

Typhonium tubispathum (2005 – Thailand)

Typhonium viridispathum (2012 – Thailand)

Aspidistra gracilis (2012 – Hong Kong)

Not only has Alan been a good friend for over 30 years, but he has been extremely generous in sharing with us at PDN/JLBG. Over 1500 plant specimens in our collection came directly from Alan. It still seems surreal that we have lost such a vibrant soul that has been so important to expanding our body of knowledge about the botanical/horticultural world. Farewell, my friend…you will be sorely missed.

We will be coordinating with his niece April and her husband Mark to plan a celebration of Alan’s life, which will be held here at PDN/JLBG at a future date, which we will announce when it is set.

20 thoughts on “Loss of a Phalloid Legend”

  1. Tony,
    Thanks for the kind, fascinating, and insightful tribute. Amazing life and story. A great loss.

  2. Laura Sonnichsen

    What an incredible person you have described here. I am sorry that you have lost him, but he has left with you the jewels of his life to share. Thank you for letting us know him with this great tribute.

  3. For the facebook communion he was such an important man for his webpage, advice and findings of new species. I would like to thank him from all these fb groups for everything he did and how he presented people with the option to buy “red plates” plants of the Amorphophallus species which were a surprise what you would get, as he collected them from his huge amounts of soil when he replanted his species. He shared his knowledge widely and even the most “novice” plant interest human he answered their questions. He was so proud of his webpage with extremely beautiful pictures (which of course were and are still with copyright). When asking or publishing he never refused but the moment he saw of found one of his pictures posted without his consent he would give that person some “harsh but fair” comments. He will be missed so much. So sorry for your loss of a great friend and our condolences from several facebook groups members to his family, friends and loved ones. He will be missed immensely. Thank you for this article about him as it is told just like he was and that people that did not know him now will know him when they see his name popping up in the plant world.

  4. Andrew T. Leonard

    Thanks for everything Alan! What a giving soul.
    I’m sure you’re walking w/all your hybrids.

  5. Sad to loose someone so very special to all.
    Thank you for sharing Alan’s love affair with plants.

  6. Emily Honeycutt

    Tony so sorry to hear of your loss of a great friend. He certainly sounds like a great person. Your tribute to him was very insightful and sounds like he had a love for plants. He has left a legend and will make the world a better place. Always enjoyed your presentations of your plant trips.

  7. Beautiful…my amorophophallis konjac blossomed a few weeks ago…so fun to watch, nose covered. Bought last spring from PD…so sorry for your loss.

  8. Thank you, Tony, for the tribute to Alan Galloway. He made major contributions to the study of aroids and your summary of his life captures it well.

  9. Leo Chul Song, Jr.

    Very sorry to read this. I had far too few interactions with him whilst at Calstate Fullerton. We shared material and I was happy to share seeds of Helicodiceros muscivorous I had received from Liége.
    Rest in peace, Alan; your legacy will contiue to grow and flourish.

  10. Jim and Cheryl Wooten

    Such a great tribute to Alan. We enjoyed his friendship and his generosity to us over the years.
    He was a wonderful neighbor and friend. Thank you for sharing this history with us.
    Look forward to celebrating his life and accomplishments.
    Cheryl and Jim Wooten

  11. Dr Stan Barone Jr

    Tony thank you for such a beautiful tribute to one of the most special human beings I have ever met. I had the privilege of picking up after falling down a mountain side after he jumped off a path avoiding a pit viper. Racing to the closest emergency room in puket Thailand. He was majorly bummed to have to chill out for two day in a beach chair with 20 stitches in his thigh.

    His generosity was unsurpassable. He was not an easy person to get close to but if you were part of his “family” he would do anything in the world for you. We will always love him and miss his wit intellect and warmth.
    Stan Barone Jr

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